John Winston Howard says he doesn't want to tell the United States how to conduct its foreign or trade policies, but the former Australian prime minister knows a few things about those topics, especially in dealing with China.
Howard, who will be in Salt Lake City next week, said during a recent Deseret News interview that China "economically should be welcomed into the world community, but welcomed into the world community on the same terms and conditions that apply to everybody else."
"China has the right to say, 'We have arrived, and we're part of the world community,' but the world community has the right to say, 'Well, that's the case, but you've got to accept the same constraints and live by the same rules as the rest of us,"' said Howard, who will be a keynote speaker Tuesday at Zions Bank's seventh annual International Trade and Business Conference.
"That will mean if the pressure is that your exchange rate should change, then it ought to change. And you must live by the same trading rules. You can't have the same privileges of a developed country but still enjoy some of the benefits in some respects of not being a developed country."
Howard was Australia's prime minister from 1996 until last November. He started a process that could result in a free-trade agreement between Australia and China, which even now is Australia's largest export market. China particularly has an appetite for coal, iron ore and natural gas resources found in Australia.
The answer to how to deal with China economically is not protectionism or trying to keep China's exports out of any part of the world, he said.
"The reality is that China's economic influence will grow, and it is better to harness that and assimilate it into the rest of the world's economy, rather than to try to resist it and to apply to China particular rules that you don't apply to other countries," he said.
The key, he said, is to be respectful of differences and be candid.
"I think the world is doing the right thing in relation to Tibet," he said. "I'm not in favor of a boycott of the Olympic Games. That's not going to achieve anything. All that's going to do is make nationalism in China more unbridled and more strident. What we should be doing is not boycotting the Olympic Games, but we should be unrelenting in our criticism of suppression of human rights and neglected human rights in Tibet. You can do both at the same time, and that is the right approach to adopt."
While in Salt Lake City for his first visit to the United States since he left office and his first-ever trip to Utah, Howard likely also will discuss a widespread world problem: being "slap-bang in the middle of the terrible food problem." Food shortages are pushing up pricing and presenting a "huge" humanitarian and potential political challenge to many developing countries, he said.
While not providing possible solutions, Howard said the problem has been caused by drought in many countries, including Australia. He also blamed "this absurd overinvestment in biofuels, which is taking grain away from food production and into biofuel production." Other contributing factors include the "middle-classing" of China, India and other countries boosting the need for higher-protein diets and poor agricultural world-trade policies."These things have all come together in this perfect storm to create this food shortage," Howard said. "It's a very big challenge."
If you go . . .
Zions Bank's seventh annual International Trade and Business Conference will take place from 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Downtown Marriott.
The cost is $35 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Registration can be completed at www.tradeconference.zionsbank.com or by calling 801-844-8573.In addition to a keynote presentation by former Australian Prime Minster John Winston Howard, the event will include speakers discussing pan-Pacific trade, vendor booths focused on international trade, and Zions honoring two recipient companies of its Global Pacesetter award.